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It's hard to believe that DECEIT is only James Siegel's fourth work
of fiction. He is perhaps best known for DERAILED, a memorable
novel adapted into a film that was, for various reasons, somewhat
less than the sum of its parts. His other works to date --- DETOUR
and EPITAPH --- are equally unforgettable. The common thread
running through Siegel's work is his ability to craft a seemingly
unsolvable puzzle or incomprehensible conundrum and then fashioning
a solution or explanation. The sticky wickets that Siegel fashions
are so interesting that the reader is in a forgiving mood if the
ultimate explanation doesn't possess a level of plausibility equal
to that of the puzzle. That's okay; it's fiction, and more often
than not audiences want to be entertained.

DECEIT puts his methodology to the test, with somewhat mixed
results. Tom Valle is a former star reporter who built his career
on sand, fabricating dozens of stories before being caught and
reduced to a pariah. Through a somewhat unlikely connection, Valle
lands a job at a small, usually daily newspaper in Littleton,
California, where he is relegated to covering human interest
stories and writing local color pieces. When a head-on collision
occurs, however, Valle's life is slowly turned upside down. The
automobile accident results in a fatality; what should be a simple
if tragic event leads Valle into what may be the case of his
career. He soon finds himself alone in an investigation of which
neither the police nor his newspaper have much interest.

Siegel does a competent job of setting things up and then unloading
a quiet but forceful revelatory wallop on Valle and the reader
approximately midway through the book. Valle slowly comes to
realize that he's being led, by persons unknown, to a conspiracy of
secrets that has been hidden for decades, even as he's pursued and
threatened off of his investigation by others.

DECEIT is not Siegel's best work --- that novel has yet to be
written but surely will be --- though it contains all of the
stellar elements that have made his prior books memorable. The
major problem here is Valle, who is largely an unlikable,
unsympathetic character, even when his intentions are honorable. In
addition to subverting his profession, Valle is a hypocrite: he
ridicules a local gun dealer, even as he purchases a revolver from
the man in order to defend himself against pursuers. He also
somehow retains the temerity to equate his situation with that of
the ill-fated "60 Minutes" National Guard story. There are
similarities --- the inverted pyramid is not a good model for
investigative reporting --- but none of which Valle would care to
be reminded.

What ultimately saves DECEIT is Siegel's writing style, which
carries the reader along on a journey that is at times breathtaking
and always entertaining, even if the final destination doesn't
match the trip and one of the traveling companions is less than


Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 29, 2010

by James Siegel

  • Publication Date: August 9, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 0446531863
  • ISBN-13: 9780446531863